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Washington Square Park

08.29.03
My workday typically ends of 5:30 pm.
I was all ready to leave and head out to yoga, when I got a call from Susan Johnson, who was sitting in Washington Square Park, reading a book, and enjoying the incredibly beautiful clear weather.

Well. I am weak. I ditched yoga and the hubbers and I met Susan in the park. And it was gorgeous. The sky was bright and the sunlight came through the trees low and canary yellow. There was a light breeze. We sat by the not-a-fountain and chatted about nothing much, comparing "sex scenes" in the novels we were reading. Susan pointed out a convoluted paragraph in Wings of the Dove in which nobody seems to be doing anything. I showed her two sentences from Anna Karenina in which it is suggested that a couple does what they have been thinking of doing for a while.

The sky was clear, the air was warm. People passed us as we sat by the not-a-fountain chatting about literature. This was how I had always imagined my life when I imagined I'd move back to New York and be a bohemian. Only, I think I imagined I would be wearing knee-high brown boots and a dark turtleneck, enormous glasses and fly-away hair. Maybe this is because I left New York City at the end of 1980, and it was this image of the city that was cemented in my mind. Or maybe I just imagined that I would grow up to look like young Gloria Steinem.

For reasons beyond my control, I have not grown up to resemble a young Gloria Steinem. But I did return to New York City. I do occasionally visit Washington Square Park. I do own a dark turtleneck and big glasses. And I am a sucker for a gorgeous clear day. I'm still working on getting some knee-high boots.

08.28.03
It is considerably quieter today than in days past.
I have been a little friendster crazed lately, and have revealed myself for the incredible dorkus I am.

When I was just a girl-child, I was highly unpopular. All I ever wanted was to have lots of friends and have good hair and for my clothes match. 20 years later, I finally have friends. But that isn't enough. I want more. I want CYBER-FRIENDS!

I have new officemates and I like them both. I peer-pressured new officemate Mike into getting on friendster. Then I made him be my friend. I am up to 22 friendsters.

Yesterday, I got an uncomplimentary email concerning my story about unemployment. Of course, I should not care. But, of course, I did. It made me incredibly angry. So I googled the guy, and actually found a picture of him, information about his place of work, and a writing contest that he had entered and not won. It was bizarrely intrusive. Then I felt kind bad for quasi-internet-stalking this poor fellow. Now, my anger has dissipated and I am at peace with the world.

My father also wrote me an email recently. He rarely visits my site, but when he does, is somewhat horrified by my candor. One never knows who is browsing the internet. Words can really hurt. Irresponsible chatter can have serious consequences. Loose lips sink ships. But how will I be famous if I never make raucous fun of people? My father and I have incredibly disparate moral structures.

08.27.03
Last may, I had been working for a gallery in SoHo and was told I was being laid off at the end of the month. This was after Brian's emergency toe surgery and our discovery of his mother's illness. My stomach was turning itself in constant knots. My boss (for anonymity's sake, I'll call her Crazy Bitch) told me they might let me continue working on an hourly basis, but when questioned her further, she would become vague and evasive.

On my second to last week at the gallery, Ms. Bitch asked me to run an errand. One of my co-workers would drive me to pick up some computer hardware. For anonymity's sake, I'll call this co-worker Smiley. Smiley revved up the car and slipped in a CD. Then he told me we needed to stop off at his apartment first, so he could walk his new puppy. This made me nervous. I knew Ms. Bitch would be watching the clock, ready to yell at me for taking too long. Smiley was in good and could take as long as he liked. That's why he was so smiley. This, and he had a new puppy. And a favorite song, which was now playing on the CD player in his car.

That song was "If You Like Pina Coladas", which is possibly the most annoying song on the planet. But Smiley loved it. He sang along. As we watched his little pug poop on the sidewalk, he explained to me that the song was about two people who loved each other, but had to find out why the hard way. He sang, "I knew her smile in an instant . . . I knew the curve of her face."

The puppy grimaced. My co-worker sang, making sensual motions with his hands. My watch ticked. My head throbbed, stomach twisted and folded over onto itself. The day was clear and bright. The blue of the sky stood out like it was electrically charged. I imagined Ms. Bitch winding up for the pitch. I saw my impending unemployment like the inside of an empty metal bowl. I listened to Rupert Holmes, insipid and sugary, asking us to come with him and escape. I felt there was no way my life could get any worse.

Of course, it did get worse. But then it got a little better. Such is the ebb and flow of life.

08.26.03
The other day, I received this from inspired Debcentral reader Niall:

I doodled with a poem, while less than busy at my office this week:

As an electric silence
Rolled across the continent
A thousand minds strained
At one thought:
Where was the famous debcentral
When the lights went out?
And after a long, weary trek,
All eyes strained;
But alas, the one who could tell
Sat silent, unblinking.

Thank you so much, Niall. I feel the love.

I would like to hereby encourage all Debcentral readers to produce Deb-inspired art. Deb-inspired art is one of the purest forms of art. And if you make some, I'll post it. Yea!

I have been on a mad friendster binge. I am befriending as many people as I can find who don't creep me out. It's fun! But I'm not sure what the point is. Maybe to prove I can hang out with the cool kids?

Also, Heck's Kitchen has recently had some pretty sketchy visitors. She received a hit from the Executive Office of the President, and then her zonkboard went down. Curious. Very Curious.

08.25.03
I would just like to state that I grew up in South Florida in a nice and loving middle-class home with two educated parents who respected my privacy and possessed good table manners.

That said, my parents did not grow in homes similar to mine. My father grew up with his mother. And his mother grew up on Mars. Apparently, on Mars, when a granddaughter does not return her grandmother's phone call for a week, it is acceptable for the grandmother to say, "I'm so angry with you, I can't even stand to look at you." On Mars, all love is both conditional and tough. I wish my grandmother would go back to her home planet and leave me alone.

I realize that she is less angry that I did not call her back for a week, and more angry that I escape from her during the great Blackout of Aught Three. I apologized several times over the phone, and then she told me what I did was unforgivable, as she had waited around all evening to see whether we would be having dinner together. Oh course, my grandmother had to turn down an offer to a cotillion, the grand opera, and a visit with the president of New York.

Granted, we are living in an apartment which she owns and is renting to us at an incredible low price. If I walked the talk, I would move out and pay backbreaking NYC market values for my freedom. Real estate on Mars is frighteningly cheap, but there's really no nightlife or good access to public transportation.

Saturday was a considerably better day than I-can't--stand-to-look-at-you-day. Saturday was Susan Johnson's 25th sangria birthday. Susan cooked up two kinds of very tasty, very classy sangrias. Karen and Rich Ramirez were there, and Ann Amarga, and this guy Peter, and some other people. Rich builds sets for movies shot in New York, so he's always telling us about this extravagant stuff he is building, mansions and grocery stores and village streets from a hundred years ago, which are used for a week or a month, and then torn down completely. The waste. This fascinates me.

Stay tuned till tomorrow when I publish an unsolicited poem about . . . me!

08.22.03
I spoke with Uncle Ira last night.
He was, as usual, in a foul mood. He complained vehemently that I do not call him often enough, and that I have not been holding up my end of the "bargain". The "bargain" is that we occupy his apartment on the condition that we visit him in prison and have him spit food in our faces. My uncle then got to talking about my visits to him. Then he got to talking about my grandmother's visits to him. The he said, "Wait a minute. Something seems very fishy to me."

In his most hard-boiled detective-like voice, my uncle went on, "How come as soon as there's a blackout, you abandon my 85 year old mother, jump in a taxi, and run off to Brooklyn."

I explained that I was originally supposed to be in Florida Friday night. But I stayed with his mother all day long, that I lugged a half-full water cooler jug up 8 flights of stairs, and ended up leaving for Brooklyn only 45 minutes before the power was to go back on.

"That's not what I heard," said my uncle. "Mother told me that she carried the jugs of water up the stairs all by herself."

"Oh, she did, did she!?!"

Now I was mad. I did that. I lugged the half-full water cooler jug up 8 flights of stairs, just so my grandmother would be able to flush her toilet. All the old lady carried was her enormous flashlight and her 85 year old self. And even then, she had to stop for breath as we made our way up the stairs. And I didn't want to stop for breath, as I was carrying a half full water cooler jug in my arms in the heat in the dark up 8 flights of stairs so my 85 year old grandmother would be able to flush her toilet. So I could pour the water from the jug into the toilet and have my 85 year old grandmother shriek that I was doing it all wrong, and she wished she'd never asked me for my help because I never listen to her anyway.

My uncle changed the subject back to what he wanted us to bring him on our next visit. A hamburger deluxe and a double order of fries and chocolate ice cream too.

08.21.03
I was in my office, working on a spreadsheet and chatting to Avery Burgess over in the Museum's Visitor Services. My new officemate, Aiesha, noted a strange beeping sound. The lights flickered. Then darkness.

That is how it began. Or did it begin when we finally decided that the lights would mostly likely not be back on before closing time, so walked down 25 flights of stairs? Office people flooded the streets of the financial district. I walked with several coworkers until the majority of our group split off to head back to Brooklyn. Ben Epstein and I continued on to City Hall. Then we went west to find a friend of his, who was of course, un-loadable. We then headed north, then back east. I left him at his place on 12th Street and 3rd, and continued on to 86th and 1st. This all took about 4 hours, and it had become awfully dark.

While I wouldn't say I had the best time of my life, it wasn't nearly as bad as what was to come. As you already know, the power was out. I had just trekked in dress shoes from the Manhattan's tip to its upper east side. In 93 degree heat. I came back to a building which was without power and water. My cell phone was not working. I could not shower. I could not flush the toilet. I did not have batteries for my clock radio. At eleven the next morning, I lost phone service. I was supposed to fly out and meet Brian in Florida, and this was all the time growing more impossible.

The only person I could turn to . . . my evil grandmother.

When I wanted to make calls to the airlines, to the phone company, to my husband, my grandmother would make me sit in this certain special swivel chair. 90 degrees to my left was the phone, 90 degrees to the right was the radiator, on which my grandmother has stacked all manner of papers, news clippings, and coupons. When I would try to make a phone, I would swivel 45 degrees so as to reach the receiver and the numbers, at which time my grandmother would shriek that I was knocking her papers off the radiator.

This, of course, is the grandmother who opens my credit card bills and then make nasty comments about what I've been purchasing. She was no less critical and divisive in this time of great need. She lectured to me about the importance of not going to the bathroom while the plumbing remained off. She would give grotesque and detailed examples of how her ancestors once employed the wide open wilderness to do their business. "And my ancestors are your ancestors, because I'm your grandmother, heh heh!"

I didn't even know what that meant. But I was delirious with distress and heat and lack of resources, but ample grandma. I checked my cell phone voicemail from my grandmother's land line. There was a call from Susan Johnson, who had only recently moved to Brooklyn. She told me power had been on since 8:30 that morning. After getting this message, I did what any dedicated granddaughter would do during a blackout: I fled to Brooklyn.

And I stayed there. Susan put me up well after the power went back on at my place. She was a wonderful and gracious host. And she listened to my grandma stories like a recently released prisoner of war recalls 9 years in captivity.

Thank you, Susan!

Of course, when I got back to work on Monday, my work space looked like Pompeii. It was covered in layers of paper, which had been tossed in the air at the initial moment of the blackout. I have been digging my way to the surface ever since.

But I'm glad to be back.

08.13.03
I got the worm
The computer V.D. Since we got this nifty cable modem, our computer is eternally connected to the internet. Unprotected from the dirty cruel world. Which is comparable to sitting on all sorts of strangers' couches without any pants on.

I have been busier than usual. Which is good and bad. But I cannot blog at home, as the Dell fellow told me that even though I downloaded "the patch" (which is comparable to a pair of flimsy underwear for my bottom-naked computer), they are not sure this will keep my computer from getting infected again.

I asked when I could go back on the internet, and the tech guy, who was speaking to me from India, said, "Wait another two or three days until Microsoft calls you."

"Oh, I should wait a few days, then I can get on the internet?"
"Preferably, you should wait until Microsoft calls you."
"How does Microsoft have my phone number? Are they getting it from you guys? Because I've called in and reported that I have the worm?"
"Yes. But they also have you number."
"And they are going to call me?"
"Yes."
"Because you're giving them my number?"
"Yes. But they have it already."
"How did Microsoft get my number?"
"Because you have the worm."
Hm. I thought this curious.

08.11.03
Brian is in Florida, visiting his mother. I am still in New York, plodding away like a little chipmunk.

Brian called me this afternoon, and I could hear what sounded like a muted, yet over-zealous piano tuner in the background. I asked what it was. Brian said it was his brother. Ed, who is experiencing the summer between freshman and sophomore year in college, was sitting on the couch, strumming his guitar.

I asked what his brother was playing, and Brian said, "You're never going to believe this. He's playing Stairway to Heaven".

One of the reasons we find this so odd is because Ed is, well, punk. -Ish. He loves Emo and hates 80s paraphernalia. He has no cosmic memory. He is Today Man. As are many youths of today. And yet, there is Today Man, slouched on the couch and picking out the tune to Stairway.

I discussed this with my co-worker Stacy at lunch. Stacy says, "That guy will always exist." That college guy with the chunky sandals and the unruly hair who slouches on the couch as he strums out cords from Stairway to Heaven. Stacy says, "It doesn't matter how old Led Zeppelin gets. That guy is eternal."

08.08.03
Yesterday, I finished The Unbearable Lightness of Being on the bus ride home from yoga class.

In the beginning, I felt a little estranged from the characters in the novel. But as the final chapters drew near, I felt I really knew those same characters, felt them to be people I cared for deeply, felt I was having a dialogue with the author. Two weeks of bus and subway reading. On the dot. And on that bus ride home, I wept. The dog. It's love. The people's love for their dog. It's illness. The beauty. Why's love got to be so goddamn mixed up and hard. Oh! I wept and wept.

In weeping, my nose began to run. It ran and ran. I had no tissues. The snot streamed out of my nose, allying itself with my tears, threatening to dribble into my mouth. I could not stop reading. And my fellow riders could not stop staring, mouths agape in horror.

I did what I could, the only thing left to do. I stuck my head in my yoga bag and wiped my nose on my yoga pants. Several times. I knew this would appear to others as degenerate. But I had no tissues, no napkins. I was not even wearing a shirt with sleeves on which I could snot. And as far as the pants go, I had just sweat all over them for an hour and a half, tangling myself into broken nose pose and crazy mixed up turtle postion. These pants were on their way to the wash.

Brian is leaving tomorrow. Heading back to Clearwater, Florida for about 10 days. I will be very lonely without him. Who will make dishes dirty and then not clean them? Who will leave old underwear on the bathroom floor? Who, as we are about to leave the house, will lose his keys, glasses, wallet, sending me peeping for a half hour under the bed and behind the dresser? Who will I yell at once he's gone?

I miss you already, Brian Geller.

08.07.03
Zina Miller has left the building
My old officemate is on her way to Harvard law school by way of Durham, North Carolina. She has departed from our lives, but never from our thoughts. In honor of her memory, I present you with this image, which can be used as a screen saver.

Heck's Kitchen is trying on yet another 'do. This site is your one-stop-shopping for all things political, dirty, and now educational!

Savvy travelers Deb Schwartz and Brian Geller will be spending Thanksgiving in beautiful Clearwater, Florida -- and they only paid $355 total for their round-trip tickets. How did they do it? They are leaving a million years before the holiday begins, and flying back a million years after it ends.

Lastly, good friend and goodtime gal, Taryn Roeder has a cousin who has made it big on McSweeneys.net. Of course, McSweenys rejected me. Twice.

08.06.03
Tampering with the mail is a Federal Offense.
That said, my grandmother has made a regular habit of tampering with my mail. As you may already know, we live in the same building, but on different floors. She owns the apartment in which we live -- an apartment that was originally purchased for her son, crazy Uncle Ira.

She of course has the mail key for her mentally ill son's mail box. And she of course routinely checks the box for mail sent to him. She of course often mistakes my credit card bills for mail intended for her or my uncle. She of course opens said mail.

Of course, she looks long and hard at the credit card statement and its explanation of purchases charged before realizing that it is in fact my credit card statement, and not hers or my uncle's (my uncle has been quite unable to own a credit card, much less a credit card statement). Of course, my grandmother apologizes for her trespasses. But then she smiles wickedly and makes nasty comments about things I have recently bought and the price I paid for them.

The price of course is freedom.

I am now reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I can't help thinking about the Russian Invasion of Prague. I image myself as Czechoslovakia and my grandmother as mean ol' Russia. Poking her nose into my business. Ferreting through my mail, looking for incriminating evidence. Cruelly ridiculing me for expense haircuts.

Of course, the Czech Republic never got use of a studio apartment on Manhattan's classy upper east side.

08.05.03
Brian's sister Jessie had a 6:15 am flight back to Colorado this morning.
She crashed at our place last night, and a car service picked her up at 4:30 this morning. Brian and I went down stairs to see her off, then climbed back into bed for another two hours. Both of us slept fitfully, and both of us had dreams involving getting Jessie to the airport.

In my dream, we dropped Jessie off at the actual airport, which was only a short walk from our apartment. Brian kept trying to stall on our walk home, stopping on several occasions to buy and drink espresso coffees and beers. He was very surly and insistent, which made me flustered, as I knew I would have less than two hours to sleep once we finally got back.

Brian's dream involved him dropping his sister off at the airport. As he was leaving the gate, he saw his boss on the other side of a metal bar which divided a secure area of the airport from a less secure area. He jumped over the bar to speak with his boss. Then he realized he couldn't get back to the other side. Since he had initially crossed over without permission, crossing back would surely get him in trouble.

Note that, though Brian and I had similarly plotted dreams, Brian was in my dream, while I was absent from his. I asked him why he hadn't seen fit to include me in his dream, and he said, "You wouldn't have wanted to be there. It was sort of a bad dream." I told him I felt neglected, that he never spent any of his subconscious time thinking about me. Then he told me he didn't very much like being the source of strife in my dreams, and would have preferred to have been absent all together.

Also, I did this. It still needs some work, though.

08.04.03
Sunday is the Lord's day. This past Sunday, it was also Uncle Ira's day.

During our visit, my uncle gave us a long lecture on the importance of graduating. He told us that getting through graduate school had been very hard for him (he had already begun showing signs of mental illness). But completing his degree was of the utmost importance. And on the day of his graduation, he really celebrated. It made him feel really proud of himself.

I asked my uncle how exactly he had celebrated, and he said, "Well, I went downtown and bought about a pound of hashish. The guy told me he would sell it to me for $75, but he ended up giving it to me for $60. With the extra money I bought a whole bunch of fireworks. You know: cherry bombs and M-80s and firecrackers. I went back to the apartment and climbed up on the roof. I smoked the hashish and threw the firecrackers off the roof. Then the asshole super called the cops on me and they locked me up."

They had committed him to Pilgrim State, which is an institution for the mentally ill. He said he stayed there for several months, then he got bored and ran away.

When he got back to Brooklyn, his uncle called, volunteering to drive Ira back to the asylum. "Then Pilgrim State called and said if I came back, I could have a room on the first floor. So I went back."

He continued, "And everything was fine for another month or so." I asked him what happened after that month or so. He said, "I got in trouble." How? "It was my birthday. So I snorted some coke and got real high, and they threw me out. . . . But it was my birthday. What's the big deal?"

Almost as charming as throwing lit firecrackers off a rooftop in Brooklyn is McSorley's, one of the oldest drinking establishments in New York City (smooth segue, no?). Susan Johnson, grad school friend Bo, his girlfriend Christine, the B-man, and I all paid a visit to this fine drinkery. Until 1968, the bar's credo had been "NO WINE, NO WHISKEY, NO WOMEN". Though they still do not serve whiskey or wine, they have been ever so slowly phasing in the women. The pub was packed, and one was quick to become quite intimate with one's neighbors. There were three women in our party, and our entrance doubled the female population.

The pub opened its doors in 1854, and seems to hang dust on its light fixtures like some establishments hang their first dollars earned. Two mugs of beer go for $3.50, and mugs must be ordered in pair. One has the choice of only light or dark or to go somewhere else. The visit made me feel thrillingly grizzled.

08.01.03
I was releaved when Susan admitted to me that she too was a book snob.
We were both English majors. From my experience, there are two types of English majors. Those who love reading for the sake of reading, and will therefore digest anything from pulp dating novels to Joyce and Borges. And those who love to feel smarter than others, reading only thick, rakish books which look impressive to be seen behind on the subway. Susan and I are both of the latter.

Susan recently went on vacation with a friend, and they both brought beach reading. Susan brought a 600 page tome, and her friend brought a book with a picture of a beach on the cover. Susan asked why her friend had chosen the book, and her friend replied, "See, I'm at the beach, and I'm reading a book with a picture of the beach on the cover."

When Susan asked what the book was about, her friend answered, "I don't care. I'm just waiting for the characters to have sex."

Susan and I then admitted there were plenty of books we have been forced to read in private. I refuse to be caught carrying "Harry Potter", any book with the word "sex" in the title, or anything which can be found in the self-help section of your local Barnes and Nobel. Because of this, I am only on "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire".

Last night Brian and had dinner with Brian's sister, Jessie. All night she toted a copy of Anna Karenina under her arm.

speaking of sisters, itís my sister Aliís 24th Birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALISON BETH!


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